opinion | Scaring people won’t make our cities any safer. Here’s what will.

Meanwhile, local measures getting closer are showing results. dozens of communities show how to ensure safety and, in many cases, save money at the same time. In Austin, Texas, an 911 call from a person reporting a mental health emergency was earlier routed to police. If there is no immediate danger, dispatchers now have the opportunity to do so Transfer call to a psychotherapist. In the first eight months after the program launched in 2019, 82 percent of transferred calls were handled without police involvement, resulting in taxpayer savings of $1,642,213. As of fiscal 2021, the program was involved in nearly 2,000 views. In Brooklyn, young people who completed an alternative illegal gun possession program had a 22 percent lower re-arrest rate than their peers who went to prison. At Olympia, Washington, a new police force The company, which provides “free, confidential and voluntary crisis response assistance,” has responded to 3,108 calls since 2019 while minimizing arrests and zero injured responders.

Communities that have adopted these approaches have not eliminated enforcement; they just needed less of it. In Denver, a five-year randomized control study by a Program that provides housing assistance to those at risk of homelessness found a 40 percent reduction in arrests among participants. These types of results are why places out New Jersey to New Mexico are restructuring their local governments to invest in the social determinants of health and safety.

And yet, as I have learned in more than two decades of work in this field, the black hole narrative cannot be changed by statistics alone. If you want policies that actually work, you need to shift the political talk from “tough candidates punishing bad people” to “strong communities protecting everyone.” Candidates who care about solving a problem pay attention to what caused it. Imagine a plumber telling you to get a more absorbent floor covering but not checking for the leak.

Because the old narrative is so ingrained, candidates often assume voters agree. But common sense and recent polls show that a majority of voters are worried about crime and also support Changes in the way we protect communities. This has fueled thousands of local innovations across the country. City governments, community groups and non-profit organizations are compare notes on what works. And organizations like A million experiments pursue innovations aimed at creating scalable solutions that do not rely on punishment. Reducing crime and reducing reliance on punishment only seem irreconcilable when you accept, as the narrative’s black hole dictates, that police and prisons are the only solution.

Voters know the status quo doesn’t work. By 2024, candidates must offer them real alternatives in the interests of public safety. This is the only way to get out of the black hole into the light.

Phillip Atiba Goff is the Chair and Carl I. Hovland Professor of African American Studies and Professor of Psychology at Yale University. He is also co-founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity, a nonprofit focused on making policing less racist, less deadly, and less ubiquitous.

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